Texas company to complete studies on Bemberg, industrial park

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF

   A Texas company has agreed to complete a remedial investigation/feasibility study on Cherokee Industrial Park and to initiate a remedial investigation and feasibility study on the Bemberg plant site, which includes adjacent property owned by John and Charles Miller, according to a state official.
   Bemberg, which was constructed in 1927, was transferred to Beaunit Mills Inc., or BEM Holding, a subsidiary of El Paso Natural Gas Co., in 1949 after the German-owned facility formerly known as Glanstoff was seized and held by the Alien Property Custodian during World War II. Beaunit owned and operated the plant until March 19, 1971. The City of Elizabethton purchased 80 acres from Bemberg Industries in 1980, which later became known as Cherokee Industrial Park.
   Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was contacted by El Paso Natural Gas following an October meeting.
   "They're going to actually do the work plan and the sampling and write the feasibility study. They're taking all that on themselves at their cost. From there we will select a remediation alternative based on the results of this study," a TDEC official said.
   According to the state, El Paso already is in the process of writing the work plan for the industrial park and is working on the Bemberg property simultaneously.
   Once the work plan is written, the state must approve the areas it proposes to sample, what kind of sampling will be done, and the method of sampling to be used.
   "Basically to finish that RI/FS on Cherokee Industrial Park, all of the sample data is in place and they just need to pull it together. I believe there are a couple of hot spots they need to take a look at and they just need to put it together in a feasibility study," a TDEC official said.
   A state contractor recently estimated the cost of completing the work at Cherokee Industrial Park at just over $26,000.
   What exactly does the study entail, in simple terms?
   Say you're sitting at your desk and you spill a cup of coffee. The first thing you have to figure out is how much of your desk did you spill the coffee on and did it penetrate into the drawer underneath. Then you've got to come up with a plan for figuring that out. To do that, you sample the surface, then you must sample around the desk. You've also got to sample the coffee that you actually spilled because maybe you don't remember whether you had cream and sugar in the coffee.
   Then you must go to the drawer and sample down there to see if any coffee made it to my drawer. Once you've done that, you send those results to the state and you might get a response back that says, " No, you left out your outbox. I've got to know if you've got an outbox. You've got to pull a sample over there, too."
   Once you do that, you send it back to the state and they take all of the data and say, "OK, what is the best way to clean this mess up?"
   Because you have done your sampling, you now know how much waste you've got and how far it's traveled both on top of the desk and underneath the desk. Now you want to know what is the best way to clean it up so that the environment and the people that live around you are not at risk. Do you have to take it all up, or can you just put a tablecloth on it and monitor it, or do you have to do anything at all? Can you just restrict people from coming on the property and nobody's at risk? You take each of those scenarios and do a risk assessment on each one to see which one will meet the national contingency plan for risk.
   Then you say, "Oh, wow! I can cap this. I can put a tablecloth on here and as long as I keep checking to make sure that coffee hasn't gone past my outbasket, that's all I have to do, and it's only going to cost me $200,000. If I dig this whole thing up and replace this whole desk, it's going to cost me $1 million. But I can meet the risk by putting this tablecloth on it, so I'm going to select the tablecloth.
   Then the state may say, "Well, that's a good idea, but what about future use? Somebody down the road may want to do more than just sit on that tablecloth. We think you've got to remove it, and our alternative is you remove it."
   Then a public notice is issued and a public hearing is held so that local citizens can have input in selecting the best alternative.
   Complications can arise, however, depending on the type of waste that's being dealt with, whether it can travel and where it might go, and if it does travel, who is at risk (are they using this pathway, i.e. surface water or groundwater) and whether there are any threatened species in its path that must be protected.
   At Bemberg and Cherokee Industrial Park, the state already knows what wastes have been dumped there, compared to other Superfund sites such as Bumpass Cove in Erwin where waste was trucked in from many different areas and no one knew for sure what actually had been buried.
   "You know what's here so you've got a good idea what you're dealing with. That really helps simplify it," the state official said.